0656-Covid19

Oldest man in the world is forced to celebrate 112th birthday alone, due to the coronavirus.

Bob Weighton (111), the oldest living man in the world, will not be able to celebrate his 112th birthday tomorrow because of the corona crisis. “Unfortunately everything has been canceled. There are no visitors and there is absolutely no party, ”said the Briton who was born on March 29, 1908. The very old man from the British town of Alton usually celebrates his birthday with a big party with friends and family, but that is not the case this year. Reason? The British government has issued strict rules to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Weighton, who also has to keep to the lockdown, is very concerned about the virus. “The world is a mess. No one knows what’s going to happen, ”the former teacher and technician tells British media. He has the courage. The father of 3 children and 25 grandchildren is doing relatively well, although he now needs to be more independent and arrange his own food and personal care. Still, the man remains positive and praises himself happily for his good health.
It is not the first time that he has experienced a pandemic. When he was ten years old, tens of millions died worldwide from the Spanish flu. Weighton states that he did not experience the virus outbreak at the time. “A child lives in a different world than adults. When you’re young, you don’t read newspapers and we didn’t have a radio back then. ” Weighton has been seen as the oldest man on Earth since last month. Then the Japanese Chitetsu Watanabe died at the age of 112.
The Brit also later experienced World War II. He says that it was a lot clearer then how the battle should be won. According to him, the virus is a completely different kind of enemy. “In World War II, you knew exactly what to do. You could fail, of course, but the goals were clear when Churchill called on the land. There was a goal we could achieve. But nobody knows exactly how we’re going to beat the virus. ”
According to the Brit, there is no secret to longevity. “I never intended to grow old. When you’re young, you don’t think about what’s going to happen when you’re old. You are confident, the only thing you think about is the here and now. ” He says he reads a lot and he is busy building model mills to keep himself mentally young.

0640-Covid19

The unintended consequences of the UK lockdown and why millions of people could already be infected

The scientific advice on which the Government has based its coronavirus strategy has been released, giving a grim insight into the expected progression of the virus and calling into question some of the strategies. Documents studied by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) showed that social-distancing “lockdown” measures to keep people apart may need to be in place for most of the year to control the spread, and millions may already be infected, according to worst-case modelling. The Government published the advice after Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said he expects the tide to be turned in the fight against Covid-19 within 12 weeks. Yet modelling shows the crisis could last far longer, with the virus potentially returning next winter. Many of the measures enacted may also have unintended consequences.  Here is what we now know.
The number of Britons who have already been infected by the virus may be anywhere up to 23 million, new modelling suggests. Calculations by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) estimate that, for every single death, many more cases are likely to be present in the population. Health experts are increasingly concerned that hundreds of thousands of people may be infected with a mild form of disease without even knowing it, and could be inadvertently spreading the virus (the so-called “super spreaders”, see video below) while they think they are healthy.
The Department of Health is keen to roll out an antibody test that could tell if someone had already been infected and  built up immunity, meaning they would no longer need to adopt social isolating or distancing measures. The team at LSHTM ran 25,000 epidemic simulations for different death and infection rate scenarios ranging from 1.5 to 10 per cent death rate in the population and someone infecting between one and three people. For a scenario with a death rate of 1 per cent, where each infected person infects three more – which is closest to what is currently thought to be happening – the team at LSHTM found that one death points to a minimum of 37 cases, a maximum of 138,624 and a median average of 1,733. With the current number of deaths at 167, it means that between 6,179 and 23 million people could already be infected, with an average of nearly 290,000.

Scientists at the Universities of Oxford, Warwick and Lancaster found that contact tracing could reduce the transmission rate from 3.11 people to 0.21 – enabling the outbreak to be contained. They carried out a postal and online survey, asking 5,802 people how many social interactions they had on a given day and found the average number of contacts over a 14-day period was 217. Of these total encounters, an average of 59 contacts (27 per cent) met the definition of a close contact (within two metres for 15 minutes) and 36 (61 per cent) could be traced. However, the team said that even with contact tracing, they would still expect 15 per cent of all infected people to generate at least one case that could not be identified. Separate modelling by the LSHTM also found that if an infected person infected another 1.5 people, tracing fewer than 50 per cent of contacts was enough to control the outbreak. However, once it reached an infection rate of 2.5 people, health officials would need to trace 70 per cent, and by 3.5 people, they would need contact nine out of 10 people that the infected person had met.  The team at LSHTM  also found that tracing and isolation was only feasible when fewer than 1 per cent of transmissions occurred before the onset of symptoms. Currently there is no data on how many people are becoming infected before symptom onset. The team concluded that “highly effective contact tracing” and case isolation is enough to control a new outbreak of Covid-19 within three months.
Peak
Modelling from the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Warwick showed that, without any measures, the epidemic would have peaked around 133 days after the first person-to-person transmission in Britain, which occurred around Feb 28. So without intervention, coronavirus would have peaked in late June to early July. The research teams also found that an outbreak starting in Brighton, or the South East England, would peak in London and the South East first, with North East England, Yorkshire and Humber and Wales following with a 10-day lag.
Symptoms
New research by Imperial College London found that people suffering from coronavirus may experience a wide range of symptoms, not simply a fever and a dry cough. Other symptoms included fatigue, fever, chill, headache, diarrhoea and nasal congestion. A few cases also suffered confusion, dizziness, nausea, difficulty walking and vomiting.  The team looked at 107,000 cases from mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. They found that among people hospitalised from the onset of symptoms, patients developed pneumonia within five days, and needed ventilation within eight days.
School closures 
The closure of schools and other public venues actually risks inadvertently spreading coronavirus, Sage behavioural scientists warned the Government. House parties and rendezvous in parks were among the scenarios predicted as a result of a lockdown. Longer queues in takeaway shops were also warned about. In a document dated March 4, the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPIG-B) conceded: “Empirical evidence for the behavioural and social impact of, and adherence to, each of the strategies is limited. We are not aware of any evidence on their interaction.”
On Thursday, March 19, the Prime Minister told the nation: “I think, looking at it all, that we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks and I’m absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country.” Up until Wednesday, March 18, the Government’s policy had been to keep schools open, partly to ensure that key NHS and other frontline care workers could remain in work rather than having to take time off to care for children. However, Mr Johnson said the Government was forced to change tack because the rate of Covid-19 infections was increasing faster than anticipated.

0630-UK’s opinion about the EU, 3 weeks after BREXIT

Thirty years ago the Daily Telegraph sent me to investigate the underworld of toxic waste disposal around Naples, even then a big enough scandal to have gained attention in London. Brave activists from Amici della Terra took me on tour of dumping zones scattered along the lower slopes of Mount Vesuvius, which were leaking deadly chemicals into the water system. Mafia scouts watched closely and wrote down number plates. The business was controlled by the Camorra, the famously-bloody Neapolitan clan. The even bloodier Ndraghetta controlled waste dumps further south in Calabria. The hazardous loads came in lorries from the industrial centres of North Italy and Europe’s heartland. It was systematic and these networks were operating with near total impunity, and the apparent complicity of regional authorities. Heroic anti-Mafia judges such as my late friend Ferdinando Imposimato tried to resist. He had 24/7 police protection so they assassinated his brother instead as an easier target. Ferdinando was forced into exile. His memoir was released in France because no Italian publisher dared to touch it. Un Juge En Italie is one of the most disturbing books I have ever read. Rome’s political casta is not spared.
What has changed thirty years later? Nothing. Astonishing revelations have confirmed the worst, from the Camorra pentito Carmine Schiavone, from parliamentary hearings, from Roberto Saviano’s journalism in Gomorrah, yet nothing has really changed. The business is still booming, and it is spreading through alliances to the Balkans. A joint Europol operation last year – ‘Green Tuscany’ – shows that Camorra tentacles have stretched North and linked up with Chinese eco-criminals in a global nexus.

I thought of this gaping environment wound when the EU’s Michel Barnier told us this week that Britain cannot be trusted even with the sort of bare bones trade access secured by Korea, Japan, and Canada, unless it accepts level playing-field clauses on the environment, as well as labour standards, competition, tax, and so forth, as an extra safeguard.  The pretence that there is an objective ladder of higher and lower standards – and that Brussels is the arbiter of slippage – is of course diplomatic legerdemain and must be rejected tout court. The EU’s strategic aim is to compel Britain to swallow the Acquis even though much of this legislation is either dysfunctional or incompatible with 21st Century science and technology. It aims to pin down this country as a legal colony with no way out later other than the pariah step of treaty abrogation. Nor does it stop there. Brussels wants ‘dynamic alignment’ on future law, starting with state aid. No matter that the UK has the best record on competition policy among major EU members, as Boris Johnson pointed out in his deliciously-defiant and uplifting Greenwich speech. “The EU has enforced state aid rules against the UK only four times in the last 21 years, compared with 29 actions against France, 45 against Italy – and 67 against Germany,” he said. But what sticks most in my craw is relentless EU humbug on the environment, and I watch with mounting anger as Euro-MPs and a clutch of states try to broaden dynamic alignment to this broad area as the price of any trade deal. We must endure this condescension just weeks after the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia opened Juniper’s Datteln-4 coal power station – and yes, you read that correctly – it authorised a brand new 1 GW plant to begin belching its fumes in January. Germany is ignoring a solemn UN request that no coal plant should ever again be opened anywhere in the world, a decision that will go down in infamy. The green watchdog Sandbag says RWE’s four large plants in NR Westphalia are burning lignite – the dirtiest of coals – and spreading poisonous emissions across a densely-populated area of 46 million people. This quartet is causing an estimated 4,200 premature deaths a year.
For good measure, RWE is clearing fresh forest to extend the open lignite mine in Hambach to feed these monsters. Germany will not phase out coal until 2038. Meanwhile, the UK has largely eliminated coal from the power system thanks to its carbon price floor – tougher than the EU’s regime – and thanks to a cross-party drive for renewable energy. The UK was the first major country to enshrine drastic C02 cuts in national law with the Climate Change Act of 2008, trumped by Theresa May’s Net-Zero plan last year, another global first. Britain’s emissions have fallen by 42pc since 1990, compared to 23pc for the EU. We should not be pious. Several states are grasping the nettle on climate change. But it borders on grotesque to insinuate that this country – with its pioneering tradition of green activism and its world-class centres of climate science – is a wanton ecological abuser. Or for that matter, a wanton violator of labour rights. As the Prime Minister said,  the UK has tougher standards than the EU minima in most areas of social policy. It offers up to 39 weeks paid maternity leave viz 14 weeks in the EU. It has one of the highest minimum wages. Several states have none at all. Etc, etc, “I dispel the absurd caricature of Britain as a nation bent on the slash and burn of workers’ rights and environmental protection, as if we are saved from Dickensian squalor only by enlightened EU regulation, as if it was only thanks to Brussels that we are not preparing to send children back up chimneys,” he said.

By Mr Barnier’s logic the UK might equally exclude EU goods from our market unless it complies with higher British standards on covert export subsidies, or social protection, or CO2 cheating. “Will we stop Italian cars or German wine from entering this country tariff free, or quota free, unless the EU matches our UK laws on plastic coffee stirrers? Will we accuse them of dumping? Of course not,” said Mr Johnson. Britain will not do so because it is the nation of Smith, Ricardo, and the trade philosophy of comparative advantage, and because that is not how global commerce works. Yes, safeguard clauses on the broad principles of civilised conduct are normal in trade deals, but that is radically different from what the EU wants. Mr Barnier has put forward an extraordinary doctrine, that the UK cannot have a sovereign trade relationship because it is too big and because it sits on the EU doorstep. What this really means is that Britain will be subject to special punitive terms as an ex- EU member if it opts to be a self-governing state under its own laws. We are getting to the nub of the matter. Downing Street’s negotiator, David Frost, told a Brussels audience this week, that to accede to these demands not only defeats the purpose of Brexit but is also unworkable and would surely end in a final volcanic rupture. Indeed. How could such a disenfranchised relationship possibly end otherwise? For three years Brussels told us that we had to stop fantasising, stop cherry picking, and face the hard choices before us. Now this government has done exactly that. It has chosen the Canada/Korea/Japan route with no bells and whistles. It seeks nothing special. “We only want what other independent countries have,” said Mr Frost. It is the EU that is suddenly caught flat-footed, sputtering incoherently, unable to take a Canadian yes for an answer, and frantically moving the goal posts.

Had this UK-EU spat occurred last year, the pound would have dived against the euro, courtesy of the Pavlovian political risk trade. This time sterling has held firm. Clearly, something has changed in the way global markets view a pugnacious Borisian Brexit and how they view the unravelling credibility of the EU position. Europe runs big risks in pursuing Barnier hegemonism, leaving aside the delicate subject of its military impotence in a dangerous neighbourhood, and the UK’s anchoring role in NATO. It is already offering so little in trade talks that the differential cost of the WTO option is trivial. Were the UK to say Auf Wiedershen and shift into the American orbit for the next half century, the consequences for Europe would be shattering on several fronts. Brussels has already made an unwelcome discovery over the last eighteen months. The EU was not immune to the Brexit confidence shock after all. Germany was if anything hit harder than the UK itself, and this has combined with a deeper industrial and technological crisis eating at the German business model. My view all along has been that the EU was never strong as it looked to those in the Brussels/Westiminster bubble with no Fingerspitzengefühl for the world economy, and it is particularly vulnerable right now. One can be mislead by mechanical arguments on relative size: 445m against 66m. The EU’s £95bn bilateral trade surplus (half German) and its sunk supply chains create asymmetric points of weakness. It will pay a higher price than the EU political class realizes if it treats the City as an enemy and loses its global banker. The leaked contingency plan from Nissan suggesting that the carmaker may shut plants in Europe and instead double down on the UK in a clean Brexit confirms what I suspected, that Brussels underestimates the import-substitution impact in the UK. These effects would cushion some of the blow for British industry. The EU would face a pure trade loss, and it would have to compete toe-to-toe with cheaper world products in the UK market. Above all, euroland remains trapped in a deflationary quagmire, with interest rates already at minus 0.5pc and bond yields deeply negative, and with a paralysed fiscal machinery fixed by EU treaty law. As Mr Frost said, the EU has “extreme difficulty in correcting wrong decisions.” And the most calamitous wrong decision – my words, not his – was to launch a monetary union without a matching fiscal union, and to do so governed by German contractionary ideology.
In short, the eurozone is chronically incapable of generating endogenous growth and has an excruciatingly-low economic pain threshold. The next serious global downturn will reveal – again – that its political pain threshold is just as low. My personal reaction to the Barnier demarche – and to predictable news that Brussels is adding unrelated political grievances to the terms of any trade accord, starting with the Elgin Marbles –  is that you cannot negotiate with these people. Britain should forget about a trade deal with Europe and look to the world. It should pursue a fast-track accord with the US, given that Washington wants the same thing and is lavishing us with affection. It should throw itself into talks with the Anglo-sphere, India, and the fifteen Asia-Pacific countries of the RCEP pact. As Mr Johnson said, Britain must rediscover the Greenwich trading spirit of 1707 and seek to become laureate nation of open global commerce. If Mr Barnier comes off his doctrinal high horse and returns with a genuine offer on sovereign terms, excellent, but this country should never again prostrate itself for crumbs from Brussels. That horrible chapter of our national life must end.

0368-UK

Boys to be allowed to wear skirts at leading boarding school

Boys will be allowed to wear skirts at one of the country’s leading boarding schools. The headteacher of Uppingham School in Rutland, whose alumni include Stephen Fry and celebrity chef Rick Stein, said any boy asking to do so would find a sympathetic ear. Richard Maloney, who joined the Uppingham in September 2016, said: “I would hope that any pupil could come to me and say, ‘This is who we are, this is how we wish to express ourselves. We want to wear these clothes’, and we would probably allow that.”

boys skirts 

Mr Maloney told The Sunday Times that last year during inclusivity week, one boy had decided to wear a long skirt for a few days to make a point. It comes as television doctor Christian Jessen, who spent three years at Uppingham, said he would “probably” have worn a skirt for its shock value had he been permitted to do so. Dr Jessen said neutral uniforms would help move away from gender stereotypes, but warned against early medical intervention in the case of children who were experimenting with gender in adolescence. The £36,000-a-year public school admitted its first female student as a day-girl in 1973 and is now fully co-educational. Unlike a growing number of public and state schools which have introduced “gender neutral” uniforms Uppingham still has separate uniforms for its male and female pupils.

Uppingham School

Boys wear charcoal trousers, white shirts and black jumpers. Girls wear grey skirts, white shirts, and cerise jumpers.  Both wear black blazers. Gareth Doodes, head-teacher of Devon College, welcomed the news but warned the school ethos was more important. “I think it’s about more than one statement, it’s the entire culture,” he said. “It’s about ensuring that a school is pastorally calibrated to ensure a child feels confident to wear the uniform of another sex.” Mr Doodes said Dover, which has 300 pupils between three and 18 years old, had no plans to introduce gender neutral uniforms but had worked to create an environment in which clothing choice was not seen as exclusive or divisive. He added: “I don’t think it’s about gender neutrality, but rather, allowing pupils to express themselves fully in an environment with is safe and supportive.” One pupil at Dover has been permitted, with the consent of the pupil’s parents, to wear the uniform of the opposite sex.
skirts

Last year alumni of the £20,000-a-year Highgate school in North London reacted with outrage when the school drew up a mix-and-match uniform policy allowing boys to wear skirts. One letter to the headteacher objected to “this preposterous proposal.” The school allows children to request staff address them by a name of the opposite gender, which around half a dozen have done. One boy has also been allowed to wear a dress to school. Other private schools have policies to deal with children questioning their gender identity. St Paul’s Girls’ School allows female pupils to be called by boys’ names and wear boys’ clothes. And Brighton College also replaced its uniform, which had been in place for 170 years, for a gender-neutral one. In 2016 around 80 state schools were allowing pupils to wear clothes of the opposite gender. Last year retailer John Lewis said it was removing girls and boys labels in its clothing as part of the fight against gender stereotyping.

0358-UK

A British rapist who managed to stay out of the hands of the police for more than 30 years has been arrested after peeing in a neighbor’s plant pot. His urination immediately led to a DNA match.

Eric McKenna (59) raped two women in Newcastle between 1983 and 1988. The police have never been able to link the two rapes together, until the neighbors complained about McKenna. He had peed in their planter unasked. His DNA turned out to link the two rape cases. Why the police decided to do a DNA test remains a mystery for the time being.According to the regional police, the case is extremely unusual. “McKenna showed no remorse in the courtroom,” an officer told BBC, his gullible deed giving McKenna a 23-year prison sentence.

0357-Russia

Moscow to expel 23 British diplomats after row over Russian involvement in spy poisoning

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin pictured at a meeting in St Petersburg on FridayRussia is to expel 23 British diplomats, close the British Council in Russia and withdraw permission for Britain to open general consulate in St Petersburg. The response follows the expulsion of 23 Russian ambassadors earlier this week after the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. Russia failed to respond to a deadline set by Theresa May for Moscow to explain whether it was behind the attack. The British ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow was summoned for talks with the Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday morning. He was told 23 British diplomats must leave Moscow within a week. On Friday, Scotland Yard launched a murder investigation after announcing that a Russian businessman who was found dead at his south London home, had been strangled, sparking fears of a second Moscow sponsored attack on British soil. Nikolai Glushkov, 68, who was a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, was granted asylum in the UK after fleeing Russia in 2006. A former right-hand man of deceased oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, his death came just over a week after Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned by a nerve agent in Salisbury. He was found dead on Monday by his daughter after failing to turn up to a hearing in the commercial courts in London. News of this latest murder investigation will further stoke fears that critics or enemies of Russia and its leader, are no longer safe on British soil. It came as Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, escalated the war of Moscow Kremlinwords with Russia, when he accused Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the nerve agent attack. He said it was “overwhelmingly likely” that the Russian President was behind the attempted murder, a claim described as “unpar-donable” by Mr Putin’s spokesman. Downing Street said the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been invited to come to the UK to take a sample of the nerve agent used in Salisbury and the process is expected to begin “imminently”. A spokesman said the Prime Minister had been “kept informed” of developments but stressed that Mr Glushkov’s death was a police matter and that no direct link had been made with the Salisbury poisoning case. But Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said the murder of Mr Glushkov appeared to “fit into a pattern” of violent deaths of enemies of Mr Putin. He said: “If there is a link between Mr Glushkov’s death and the Kremlin it will be further proof that we are dealing with essentially a rogue state which refuses to abide by international rules and has violated UN laws. “What has been going on is a deliberate attempt to settle Russian scores in the UK.” The former boss of the state airline, Aeroflot, Mr Glushkov had told friends he feared he was on a Kremlin hit-list. A former bodyguard, who worked for Sergei Skripal with his daughter YuliaMr Berezovsky, and knew Mr Glushkov well, said his death had all the hallmarks of a state-sponsored assassi-nation. The France based security expert, who asked to be identified only by his initials, RG, said: “I’m not at all surprised [that a murder investigation has been opened]. “You can easily choke someone in 10 seconds so that they fall into a comatose state and you can then continue strangling them without leaving any other marks on the body. It’s a technique they [the Russians] know well.” Mr Berezovsky was found hanged in the bathroom of his Surrey home in 2013, with the cause of death being put down to suicide. But suspicion has always surrounded the circumstances of his death, with many believing he was one of a number of Putin critics who were deliberately silenced.

0356-Russia

Suitcase spy poisoning plot: nerve agent ‘was planted in luggage of Sergei Skripal’s daughter’

Yulia and Sergei Skripal

The nerve agent that poisoned the Russian spy Sergei Skripalwas planted in his daughter’s suitcase before she left Moscow, intelligence agencies now believe. Senior sources have told the Telegraph they are convinced the Novichok nerve agent was hidden in the luggage of Yulia Skripal, the double agent’s 33-year-old daughter. They are working on the theory that the toxin was impregnated in an item of clothing or cosmetics or else in a gift that was opened in his house in Salisbury, meaning Miss Skripal was deliberately targeted to get at her father. At a public meeting on Thursday evening Paul Mills, deputy chief Constable of Wiltshire police, revealed 131 people could have potentially come into contact with the deadly nerve agent, and that they were being monitored by health authorities over the phone on a daily basis. He also said 46 people had attended hospital expressing concerns since the incident, and that cordons around areas where traces of the nerve agent had been found or could yet be found may remain in place for months. Col Skripal was convicted of spying for Britain in 2006 but came to the UK in 2010 in a spy swap. Counter terror police and MI5, hunting the would-be assassins, no longer think the Kremlin-backed hit squad ever entered the UK, making it Police guard the home of Det Sgt Nick Baileymuch harder for the UK authorities to pinpoint exactly who carried out the attempted murder of Colonel Skripal, 66, and his daughter. They remain in intensive care, fighting for their lives. Police sources have told the Telegraph that 24 cordons have now been erected in and around Salisbury as authorities race to eradicate any trace of the nerve agent. The latest cordon went up surrounding the home of Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who is seriously ill in hospital. In a tour of Salisbury on Thursday, Theresa May launched a withering attack on President Vladimir Putin’s regime as Moscow prepared to expel British diplomats in retaliation for the sending home of 23 Russian suspected spies. The prime minister said: “We do hold Russia culpable for this brazen, brazen act and despicable act, which has taken place on the streets of what is such a remarkable city.” International allies rallied round Mrs May, directly blaming Russia for the attack. In a joint statement Britain, America, France and Germany said there was “no plausible alternative explanation” for the nerve agent attack other than Russian involvement. Det Sgt Nick BaileyDonald Trump said: “It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it” while the US administration announced fresh sanctions against the Putin regime for election meddling and cyber attacks, separate to the nerve agent poisoning of Col Skripal and his daughter. The political fallout from the nerve gas attack continued to reverberate with the Det Sgt Bailey’s family criticising Jeremy Corbyn for failing to condemn the Kremlin the previous day. William Pomeroy, the detective’s father-in-law and a life-long Labour voter, said: “I’m very disappointed in Mr Corbyn. He’s said almost nothing about this and came across as very weak on it. “He seems to have been a bit mealy mouthed about Russia’s involvement. It’s disappointing because he should be representing ordinary people like me.” DS Bailey, a 38-year-old father-of-two, was poisoned at Col Skripal’s home rather than at the bench in the city centre where the couple later collapsed, it is understood. That bolsters the belief that the nerve agent was brought into the home inadvertently by Ms Skripal. She arrived in the UK on Saturday March 3 on a flight from Moscow that landed, according to police, at 2.40pm. One source said it was straight forward for the assassins to break into Ms Skripal’s apartment in Moscow and plant the nerve agent in her luggage. Security sources have told The Telegraph that the timings are “hugely significant”. The next day, the pair drove into Salisbury city centre, parking in Yulia and Sergei SkripalSainsbury’s car park at 1.40pm before going to the Bishops Mill pub and on to Zizzi restaurant before collapsing on a bench. Traces of Novichok nerve agent have been found on Col Skripal’s car and in the restaurant and pub. Experts said it was telling that counter terror police have issued no images of possible suspects, given the large number of CCTV cameras in and around Salisbury city centre. The cordon thrown up around Det Sgt Bailey’s family home in the village of Alderholt in Dorset, 14 miles from Salisbury, included the entire cul-de-sac and surrounding streets. Both family cars were removed 11 days after the Wiltshire officer was made ill. Another car was removed from outside a house in married quarters at Larkhill garrison, home of the Royal Artillery, 13 miles north of Salisbury. Troops, trained in chemical warfare, are being deployed to decontaminate all areas which may have come into contact with the ‘persistent’ deadly nerve agent. Officials have drawn up a list of possible affected areas and objects and are working their way through them in order of highest risk. One source said: “You would basically need to decontaminate the whole of Salisbury before you could declare it safe to the public.” Public Health England has insisted there is a “low risk” to the public.

0355-Russia

‘Western plot to discredit Moscow’: How the spy scandal is playing out in Russia

IRussian policemen guard the entrance to the British Embassy in Moscow, where theories abound t has now been over a week since former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

With echoes of the Litvinenko murder in November 2006, deemed to be ‘probably’ the handiwork of Kremlin agents, the British government has been quick to apportion blame on Russia for the attempted hit. Unsurprisingly, however, a very different narrative is being played out inside Russia.

What the officials say…

While President Vladimir Putin and his foreign secretary have straight-out denied Russin involvement, many officials have gone a step further. Central to some responses is a theory that the attack was, in fact, carried out by none other than UK and US intelligence agencies in a Western plot to discredit Mr Putin ahead of presidential elections on Sunday. Evgenny Primakov Jr, a designated “trusted representative” of Mr Putin, authorised to speak on behalf of his campaign during the Russian presidential election, said: “Frankly, in Moscow we are in shock. The whole thing looks insane. No one here believes this was a Russian attack. “We are absolutely sure, 100 percent sure, that the whole thing is aimed at our elections. In my personal opinion, I’m absolutely sure Sergei Skripal was poisoned by the British or American secret services.” Meanwhile, Russian The headquarters of the FSB security service, the successor to the KGB in central MoscowMP and former FSB director Nikolai Kovalyov said that it is possible British spies may be involved in not just the latest poisoning, but also the deaths of other agents on British soil. “Considering this and the death of other traitors in England, I have formed the impression that British spies, once they have got full use out of a traitor, are willing to sacrifice them – and then say that it was Russia that did it,” he said. This, he claimed, in the interview with RIA Novosti, benefited the UK, USA and also Ukraine in portraying Russia as an aggressor state. He had another theory: “There is a laboratory in this town [Salisbury]. Look into whether they was a leak from there.” Maria Zakharova, meanwhile, the the foreign ministry spokesperson, is behind a series of fiery Kremlin communiques in which she has called Mrs May’s speeches in the House of Commons a “circus show” and “fairy tales”, and went on to say that the British position “is a political campaign founded on provocation”. In the last week Ms Zakharova has even suggested that the assassination attempt may be sour grapes after Russia beat England in the bid to host this year’s World Cup. In response to Boris Johnson’s threats of boycotting the tournament, Ms Zakharova reminded journalists that it was Britain who had lost out to Russia in the bid . “Announcements like this, made by the head of a government department – it’s just madness really,’ she commented, adding one final sleight to the Foreign Secretary: “What sort of a person … does that?” Theresa May has described many of the official Russian responses as amounting to little more than “sarcasm, contempt and defiance”.

What the press says…

State-owned media outlets like RIA Novosti, Rossiyskaya Gazeta and Tass Ru have been conspicuously quiet on the subject of the Skripal poisoning. Earlier this week, news in Russia has concentrated on the death of actor and director Oleg Tabakov, and on the sacking of Rex Tillerson, which papers have gleefully hailed as signs of White House chaos. The broadcasters, however, have come out all guns blazing in defence of the Kremlin. State television station, Russia 1, ran a story entitled The Death Trap, referring to the number of Russians who have died on British soil under suspicious circumstances, while Pervyj Kanal argued that Skripal was of no danger to Russia and was a “spent The western plot is a perfect chance to discredit Putin ahead of elections, it has been suggestedforce”. Both Russia 1 and  Pervyj Kanal have also implied British complicity in the Skripal attack as a means by which to discredit Russia on an international stage. Russia 1 commented that the poisoning was of use only to “British Russophobes” as well as the USA and possibly Ukraine, with whom Russia is currently involved in a proxy war.  Pervyj Kanal seemingly sought to implicate British secret services in the attempted murder, adding that it was no coincidence that both Litvinenko and Skripal were handled by the same intelligence consultant. RT, previously Russia Today, was also hard at work stirring the pot. When Ms Zakharova angrily objected to Theresa May calling the Russian foreign ministry unfit for his post, it was soon after revealed that the Prime Minister had in fact said no such thing. Who was behind this apocryphal slagging match? None other than RT editor Margarita Simonyan. By comparison, non state-run media, of which there are increasingly few in Russia now, have been leading with the story over the week and have not shied away from laying the blame at the Kremlin’s doorstep. Meduza, which was formed in Riga by Galina Timchenko after being fired from her post as editor of Lenta.ru on the orders of the Kremlin, has been investigating the nerve agent Novichok and quoted its creator, Vil Mirzayanov, as having told The Telegraph that “only Russia could do this”. At the same time, Novaya Gazeta, ran with the chilling headline, ‘No Russian exile is immortal’. Novaya Gazeta is one of the few publications left in Russia that openly criticises the state. Since 2001, six of their journalists have been murdered.

What the commentators say…

Veteran RT commentator Igor Maltsev complained of the absence of any evidence to catch Russia red handed. “Everything surrounding the Skripal case is a mass of facts and counter-facts. Only one thing is for certain – that Russia is guilty of everything, a fact apparently as unshakeable as Westminster Bridge,” he said. This was all the more pressing for Mr Maltsev, whose employer RT, is a potential target for expulsion as part UK sanctions. Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, took to Twitter to suggest expelling oligarchs from London. “The unpleasant scenario for Putin would be if the English finally chuck out from their country dozens of our officials and oligarchs with their families and money,” he wrote. He then cited three key individuals – “Abramovich, Usmanov and Shuvalov” – all of whom live in London and made the wealth in the chaotic years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Abramovich and Usmanov own or part Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich couldbe part of the bargainown Chelsea and Arsenal football clubs respectively. Boris Akunin, one of Russia’s most popular authors, however, said that expelling oligarchs was precisely what Putin wants.  Setting out his theory in a Facebook post on Tuesday, the detective writer said that the Skripal attack was designed to goad the British government into destroying the oligarch community in London, a group which the Kremlin would like to see weakened. “The creation of a situation in which this particular group will be forced back into Kremlin-controlled territory, is useful and advantageous for Putin,” he said. The former sleeper-agent and, now, Russian television personality Anna Chapman labelled Mr Skripal a traitor. Ms Chapman, who was exchanged for Mr Skripal in 2010, said: “As always Russia is guilty by default… despite the fact that traitor Skripal was pardoned by the President and released.”

And what the trolls say…

The so-called troll factories have had their work cut out. A mysterious building on the outskirts of St Petersburg is reputed to house several hundred professional trolls who are employed to spend their days writing pro-Russian doggerel on social media and in the comments section of web articles in the western press.  In the immediate aftermath of the poisoning, many were quick to avert the blame from Russia. One, named ‘Germann Arlington’, commented on an article in The Times: “It sounds like an open and shut case.The investigators did not even start working and the mainstream media (and the commenters) have already assigned the guilt. Does it sound like a proper investigation? Maybe the officers already had all the required answers (from above) and were just ticking boxes?” Fellow commenters were quick to respond. “Good work muddying the waters comrade!,” wrote one. “Nearly as efficient as the FSB,” wrote another. Bravely soldiering on for a few more comments, Germann Arlington eventually succumbed after falling foul of the grammar pedants who were quick to pick up on his wooden use of English. “English teachers in Moscow aren’t what they used to be,” said one pedant, providing the final hammer blow to that exchange.

 

0354-Russia

Russia makes bizarre ‘Sherlock Holmes’ defence over Salisbury spy poisoning

Russia compared the British government to Inspector LeStrade, a “hapless” investigator from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, as it denied responsibility for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. The bizarre comments were made by Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian permanent representative to the UN, who also suggested the UK or others could have tried to kill Mr Skripal in act of “black PR” designed to “tarnish Russia”. He also suggested that the British public were “not well educated” and being “influenced” by their government. In a lengthy address to the UN Security Council Mr Nebenzya said: “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the British classic, famed in his country and very popular in Russia, has a hapless character, Inspector LeStrade from Scotland Yard. “He doesn’t have the methods of deduction, he is not particularly smart. His role is to be the background for the extraordinary deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes. “LeStrade latches on to something that is on the surface of a crime and is in a hurry to prove banal conclusions Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenziaonly to be overturned by Sherlock Holmes, who always finds what is behind the crime and what is the motive for it. “I’m not saying people working at Scotland Yard today are not professional, God guard me from that, but I do think we could all benefit from having a Sherlock Holmes with us today.” He added: “The collective Inspector LeStrades today are high level members of the UK government who are coming up with egregious, superficial and unsupported accusations which have far reaching consequences.” Mr Nebenzya went on: “Is this incident something that benefits Russia on the eve of presidential elections and the world football championships? I can think of a number of countries who would benefit a great deal from this incident and blaming Russia for it.” He said Mr Skripal had no longer been any threat to Russia. “But he is a perfect victim which could justify any unthinkable lie, any kind of dirt or black PR tarnishing Russia,” he said. “We are witnessing that the authorities of the UK are constantly trying to tarnish Russia, stooping to any low. He said: “A hysterical atmosphere is being created by London and they are being completely non-transparent in this. They are trying to influence the public which is very easy to influence and not well educated.” Mr Nebenzya accused the UK of “using the language of the 19th Century and colonialism”. He added: “The ultimatum from London is something we can’t pay attention to and we consider it null and void. We have nothing to fear, we have nothing to hide. “We do not speak the language of ultimatums. We will not allow anyone to speak to us in that language, but we are polite.” On Mrs May’s letter he said it contained “completely irresponsible statements,” adding: “It’s difficult  for me even to comment using diplomatic vocabulary. It contains threats to a sovereign nation. Russia had nothing to do with this incident.”

0349-Russia

Only Moscow could conduct Salisbury attack, says Russian scientist who warned world of nerve agent without cure

The former Russian double agent and his daughter poisoned by a deadly nerve agent will either die or be crippled by their exposure to Novichok, according to the whistleblower who alerted the world to Russia’s secret chemical weapons programme. Vil Mirzayanov, a chemist who worked at the heart of the Soviet programme, said Russia was the only country able to produce and deploy such a powerful nerve agent, and he warned that many more people may fall ill. “It is at least 10 times more powerful than any known nerve agent. Plus practically it is incurable,” he said at his New Jersey home on Monday evening. “These people are gone – the man and his daughter. Even if they survive they Dr Vil Mirzayanov first alerted the world to the danger of Novichok nerve agents in 1992 will not recover. That is the terrible damage it does. I’m afraid many more people were exposed.” He added that he believed the poison used in the Salisbury attack would have been manufactured in Russia as two, harmless components. They would have been brought into the UK and then combined inside a tiny, easily hidden aerosol spray that could be used to deliver a deadly dose and a “deliberate demonstration” to Moscow’s enemies around the world. He spoke hours after Theresa May gave Vladimir Putin until the end of Tuesday to explain the use of Novichok or face retaliation. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia have been in hospital in a critical condition since being found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre on March 4. Mrs May said either Russia carried out the attack or had lost control of its nerve agent. Dr Mirzayanov said even the existence of Novichok, let alone its formulae, had been a closely guarded secret, making it “unthinkable” that another country or terrorist group had been allowed access or help in its manufacture.

“Only Russia could do this,” he said. “They would never give it away.” The Russian scientist, who fled his homeland in 1995 and now lives in New Jersey, revealed the existence of the Novichok family of nerve agents in 1992 but said it was still so little understood that it had never been banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Nor had it ever been declared by Russia. That made it perfect for assassinations, he said, as Russian security forces believed it could not be traced to Moscow. This was the first time it had ever been used, according to Dr Mirzayanov, who added it was most likely weaponised as a spray. “It can be delivered in many ways but it was most probably given Investigators in protective clothingin aerosol can,” he said. “It can be small, just 10 grammes would be a lot. In summer maybe just two grammes would be enough to kill 500 people.” It would almost certainly have been manufactured in Russia, he added. “They can send anywhere through the diplomatic bag,” he said. For 26 years Dr Mirzayanov worked for GOSNIIOKhT (the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology or better known in Russian as “Goodnight”), the Soviet Union’s premier military centre for producing chemical weapons. He headed a counter-intelligence unit which monitored the surrounding area to ensure Novichok – the Russian for “newcomer” – or other nerve agents were not leaking out where they could be detected and analysed by foreign spies. He went public about the programme in 1992 after discovering frightening levels of chemicals outside the facility. Dr Mirzayanov was fired and arrested for treason. The subsequent trial collapsed but not before he managed to copy down 60 secret documents submitted in evidence. They formed the basis of a book detailing Russia’s secret programme written after he was allowed to leave the country. He has lived ever since in New Jersey, where he took a post at Rutgers University. He had no idea his old life was about to intrude when he read about the apparent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury last week. “I never, ever supposed they would use Novichok,” he said. Instead he assumed it was VX – like that used by North Koreans to kill the estranged half brother of Kim Jung-un in Malaysia. “I supposed that there was no necessity to use it. It’s more brutal, more painful,” he said. “But what could be so important that you have to use something this terrible?” “It was a deliberate demonstration by Vladimir Putin of his power against his enemies. This was a brazen and deliberate demonstration.” The agent causes vomiting and convulsions as the central nervous system shuts down, he said. It was developed as part of the Soviet Union’s ongoing quest to refine its arsenal of chemical weapons, as scientists tried to find variants with improved stability, rates of reaction and ability to permeate the skin. Jerry Smith, a former chemical weapons inspector for the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said the Novichok agent is “very persistent” and could linger for a “reasonable length of time”. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “To be honest there is very little knowledge in the open source about these agents. There is sort of six or seven elements that the whistleblower put out of certain lightweight detail shall we say, not a huge amount of detail. “But we do know that they can be as you mention binary, we do know that they can be very persistent.

“In fact they can actually be micro pulverised dust so they are called dusty agents rather than being a liquid so they can hang around on surfaces for a reasonable length of time.”

Mr Smith also suggested the agent could have been made by other “advanced countries”.

“I assume that the investigation has found particular pointers for the Prime Minister to make an accusation that actually pointed towards one country because certainly the technology is out there for advanced countries, other countries, to manufacture it,” he said.